The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz
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A few days ago I attended an art and writing workshop at Broadacre House in Newcastle run by Launchpad. The subject of the workshop was stigma. The day was very good. Lovely people. Lovely conversation. And we all enjoyed ourselves. After some exercises to get our creative brains working we were told to write something about stigma with a view to creating a piece of art related to the subject by the end of the four hour session.
We were given a whole twenty minutes to write. Later in the day our writings were taken and typed up. I wish I'd proof read the typing on the day. There are mistakes in it. That's a shame because all of our writing and art from the day is going on public display in two locations through mental health week. I may have to go along on the first day with Tippex and a pen!
Twenty minutes. I spent the first five of these minutes boiling a kettle and making a much needed mug of spiced tea. So fifteen minutes. Here's the result. I finished before the fifteen minutes were up too!
Don't speak to me and I won't speak to you.
Won't mention it, imply it, talk it out.
It's a private thing you say, too much for you.
“Why don't I just stop?” you say.
“Stop being autistic, difficult, so bloody selfish.
Snap out of depression you ungrateful bastard.
And if you mention a personality disorder again?”
But I didn't mention it. You did.
And yet, the biggest stigma was in my own head.
Autism? No way. Can't be true. I'm not one of them.
Not shut in. Not melting in the street.
Not much anyway.
Not some mono-focussing idiot savant,
The local Rain Main equivalent,
Or as socially inept as a Sheldon.
BPD? No way. Can't be true. I'm not one of them.
It's just wrong, like all the other diagnoses were wrong.
I'm not like that.
And they only ever said I was because of the cuts.
It's bull. Stupid psychiatrists.
BPD? Nonsense. Just like the rest.
I'm not bipolar, schizoid, schizotypal, schizophrenic. Or any of them.
Yeah, I received stigma. Internalised it. Just another reason for self hate, calling myself a monster.
Couldn't accept the truths because I was raised proud, raised pure, raise to not be disordered.
No ASD or BPD. No Ds at all. Or they'll see me for what I am and hate me just like I deserve.
Freedom is worth fighting for.
Coming back to what I thought false myths and accepting the facts. Facing down the myths I believed and rejecting them.
ASD, BPD – and my queerness, my irreligion. So what? Inside I will broach no stigma.
I will stand. Out and proud. Out. Public. Self-accepting. Self-believing. Under no illusions.
No. Less illusions. There are still stories I tell.
Lies I kid myself with. Lies of the old monster kind.
Can't write. Can't sing again. Can't hope.
And they will fall too.
Now is the time to live. Free. Self-redeemed.
No matter what they say.
And they do say.
But less than I ever believed they would.
I believed they would damn me.
Because I stigmatised myself more than the so-called society ever could.
I am out and proud.
Free and self-redeemed.
Then it was time to do some art. I can panic at art. Panic at paint. To be given paper or canvas and some paint and be told to create something is a thing of dread for me. And yet. I made something. We all did. Each piece arising from the honesty of our own situations and experiences.
The words in the red sections represent words that have spoken to me. The words in that strange looking face are questions I've asked and stories I've told myself. The words round that face are positivity. In the midst of all the rest I am determined that those words are part of my truth.
It's not an artistic masterpiece. But it's mine. And I'm proud to have done something without guidance, without help, and without having a meltdown. That's a joy for me. Seeing the work and hearing the words of the other people in the workshop was also a joy.
As for that exercise to get our brains loosened up. We were given a sentence to free write from. As it turned out we were given just enough time for me to fill a page. What we came up with was great, each person happening to go in a completely different direction. Here's my direction.
Reluctantly, he handed over the key.
She looked at him in horror.
"C sharp major? You've got to be kidding me. I can't play that."
"Well that's going to be a problem, isn't it missy? I've paid for you to play and you're going to play. Don't think I won't report you if you play it wrong."
Life as a music slave was not the worst way to survive in the new world. At least there was food. At least there was the transfixing joy of playing from your own soul when you weren't working. Kate wondered. Was this difficult, angry customer really a music expert from the old world? Or was he just being harsh out of cruelty?
She decided to risk finding out, risk playing in a way she knew her rendition of the piece would be perfect. Kate liked playing Bach, even with difficult intervals. But even the master himself would never have chosen a key with seven sharps. Kate wondered what he would think if he knew his music was being played by slaves on another world, what kind of sonata or cantata that knowledge would inspire.
She decided. The risk was worth it. Even if discovered the punishment wouldn't be much worse than that for playing badly. The thought of being separated from her precious piano for a day, a week, longer, was almost unbearable.
Kate looked at the man. He was sweating in anticipation of hearing. He looked more a fool than a musician.
C sharp major. No thanks. Kate knew she would be playing the Goldberg Variations in C. Just a semitone out. And no sharps. He wouldn't notice would he?
She placed her fingers on the keys, took a deep breath and began her performance.